'BPO sector crying for help'
Jamaica needs to act fast in addressing several Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector shortcomings or risk losing out on valuable investments, says an industry lobby group.
The urgent plea from the Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ) comes less than a month after US outsourcing giant Convergys Corporation announced that it had delayed plans to open a call centre in Jamaica, with sources claiming that it was due to concerns over the availability of work space in Jamaica. Convergys, one of the largest agent-assisted customer service companies in the world, had planned to employ around 1,000 Jamaicans with an eventual course to expand to 3,000.
"That is why it is imperative now more than ever, for the private and public sectors to act fast regarding the support of the BPO division and the development of space, as this was one reason for Convergys to delay their entry into Jamaica," said BPIAJ chairman, Yoni Epstein.
"In the wake of a large corporation postponing their entry into the BPO sector due to changeable factors such as lack of building space, Jamaicans, especially those who are leaving secondary and tertiary education institutions, are being disproportionately affected as their job security is being threatened," Epstein said.
Along with sufficient space to accommodate call centre seats, Epstein said a drive to attract more local investment and a better training model are strategies needed to accelerate ICT activity.
Jampro can contribute to the BPO sector by not solely looking at foreign investors, and having more local investor involvement, Epstein said.
"While foreign investors certainly bring credibility to the table, the local market is devoted to Jamaica for the long haul. In addition, Jampro needs to look for third party business to pass on to local companies along with their search for multinationals," he said.
According to Epstein, if Jampro went on a campaign to find 50 additional seats for each of the 26 BPO players in Jamaica, approximately 1,300 new jobs would be created.
This, he said would significantly contribute to the ICT industry which currently employs approximately 12,000 persons and generates $3.1 billion in payroll and consumption taxes annually for the Government.
What's more is that the BPO industry needs help to improve service capabilities to include advanced and complex specialty services component. In light of this, the BPIAJ has called for a superior training model.
"While Jamaica's BPO sector offers impressive industry advantages, including a highly trained and skilled labor force, an excellent telecommunications infrastructure, and prime accessibility to the US, these credentials are directly dependent upon the availability of building space and the investment in a proper BPO/contact centre type training model," he said.
With these strategies, there is likely to be a steady incline in both private and public sector jobs, added the BPIAJ head.
"Furthermore expanding the credibility of the island as a near shore location servicing the US and strengthening the local economy by putting more people to work," he noted.